A Ryder Cup without fans?

Member Opinion – by Jim Davis

The 2020 Ryder Cup is scheduled for Sept 25 at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wisc. As of now, reports Golf Digest and other news sources, the PGA is considering holding the event without fans. That is something to ponder. Is the event a spectator sport, or a golf match? No doubt the fans and their dollars do much to support the event. And the Ryder Cup is, as Golf Digest notes, of huge financial importance to both the American and European PGA tours.

As well, the players will tell you, or so we have read, that they enjoy and feed off the energy and enthusiasm of the fans. The matches have become enormously partisan with a considerable home-crowd advantage. What American fan, for example, doesn’t like to shake an angry fist at Ian Poulter? And the Euros have great fun razzing, or worse, the U.S. players who fail to sink a putt or send a drive astray.

There are plenty of stories about recent Ryder Cups and fan behavior to consider when reflecting on what a players-only event might be like with only the wind and one’s caddy (with a mask?) whispering in your ear. Possibly the only others nearby would be the opponent(s) and their caddies, on-course officials and television crews.

Aspiring amateurs and many private club players know what it is like to play important, to them, matches in near silence in the company of opponents only. Even at some pro tournaments, early tee-timers often play in relative obscurity compared with “featured” pairings and the final groups. How different are these compared with the pressure of the international matches that have so grown in our golf cultures.

The Ryder Cup, for good or ill, has become a spectator’s match and it is hard to argue with the ratings and all the energy the event produces, from fans and players alike. High drama, too, that is enhanced when surrounded by partisan fans. All that would be missing. Cue the wind and the tumbleweeds, especially, at Kohler, the wind.

One supposes the television audience would still be there and thus commercial sponsorships and their financial support. Bills paid, but a quiet match without cheering fans. Has not this golf match, the Ryder Cup, become much more than scorecards and point totals at the end of competition?

These, and likely many more, are the questions the tours and their high chiefs are pondering .

What do you think? Send your comments, should you wish, and we’ll append them here. editorthegolf@gmail.com